What... (i.e. camp, dance class, birthday party)
        
 
Pick a NYMetroParents Region: All Regions   Manhattan    Brooklyn    Queens    Westchester    Rockland   Fairfield    Nassau    Suffolk  

Resources

   

SPECIAL NEEDS: SERVICE DOGS FOR CHILDREN WITH AUTISM

     Home  >  Articles  > Advice & News
by Kathy Satterfield

Related: special needs, kids, children, service dogs, autism, families, assistance, service pets, autistic, behavior modification,


special needs service dog   Autism service dogs are providing families with much needed assistance, peace of mind, and a big doggy dose of unconditional love.

   Mom Michelle Lasker got Leia, a black Labrador, to take care of her 7-year-old son, Tyler DeMari, who is autistic. He is very sensitive to sounds and smells and has trouble in public places-he would run away from his mom in malls and supermarkets.

   Lasker, who lives outside of Buffalo, New York, got Leia through 4 Paws for Ability. Leia was trained for single-minded search and rescue missions, among other things. During a 10-day session last August, 4 Paws trainers and Lasker ran several drills each day to be sure Leia could pick up Tyler's scent in a crowd. But not only can Leia quickly fetch Tyler in a public place, she also helps keep him calm. Says Lasker, "The behavior modification is amazing-a tantrum that was once 20-30 minutes is down to two minutes now."

 

The Healing Power of Paws

   Though dogs have long been man's best friend, the canine-human connection has continued to expand, from beloved pet to highly trained assistant-guiding the blind, aiding the disabled, and helping kids with autism. Nonprofit organizations such as 4 Paws carefully select dogs based on temperament and intelligence, and then rigorously train them to become autism service dogs.

   Afterspecial needs service dog years of overwhelming stress dealing with her son's autism, Claire Vaccaro applied for an autism service dog. Her 11-year-old son, Milo, had been through various therapies, medication trials with the resulting terrible reactions, and multiple hospitalizations. He struggles with sensory issues and mood dysregulation, which complicate even the simplest interactions. In addition, Milo's incredible anxiety made it impossible for his mother or older brother, Sasha, to ever leave his side. "I thought if Milo had the benefit of a constant companion he might start to feel more secure, and be able to navigate and be more social," says the Manhattan mom.

   Chad, the yellow Labrador retriever that Vaccaro got through Autism Service Dogs of America, is everything Vaccaro had hoped for. Before Chad, "Milo couldn't even calm his brain down to think straight, much less deal with all of the uncomfortable sensory feelings [from] minute to minute," she says. "Now he is less anxious and wants very much to interact more. He's able to share ideas and things he's learning in school."

   Dr. Melissa Nishawala noticed a marked change the first time Milo visited with Chad. "He exhibited a calmness I had never seen before," says Dr. Nishawala, clinical director of the autism-spectrum service at New York University's Child Study Center. She and Vaccaro have now discussed weaning Milo off some of his medications.

 

Prescription-Free Puppy Love

special needs service dog, yellow labrador   Samantha and Noel Mannion, of New Fairfield, Connecticut were desperate to find something that would help their autistic son, James. In addition to his tendency to bolt in public, the 6-year-old had become self-injurious. "The psychopharmaceutical meds made him worse, so we tried all sorts of alternative therapies-acupuncture, vitamin supplements, special diets," Samantha says. "Nothing was working."

   Relief showed up in the form of a 70-pound pup named Ginger, from North Star Foundation. Ever since the golden retriever came to live with them, "The repetitive behaviors have pretty much stopped. His anxiety and meltdowns have been reduced," Samantha says. And Noel's therapist uses Ginger to enhance their sessions.

   Science cannot yet explain why assistance dogs succeed where medications have failed. But the experiences shared by families like the Mannions, Vaccaros, and Lasker, have inspired researchers, including some at the National Institutes of Health, to look for the scientific basis behind all the anecdotal evidence. In the meantime, families aren't so concerned about the whys and hows of it all, but are just grateful for these special dogs that have come to their rescue.

 

 

Resources

These nonprofit organizations specially select and train dogs to help autistic children and their families:

 


Did you find this helpful?

Get more useful parenting info weekly
Sign-up for newsletter


More Advice & News Articles

The Importance of Social Connection for Those with ASD
What to do When Family Doesn't Believe Your Child's Diagnosis
What You Need to Know About the ABLE Act
How to Discuss Your Child's Diagnosis with Your Child
What to Do if Your Child Has Challenging Symptoms but No Official Diagnosis

Be a good fellow parent and share this with a friend who would be interested
Email Friend

Local Advice & News Sponsors


Great Play of Scarsdale
969B Central Park Avenue
Scarsdale, NY
914-713-3470
Great Play offers fantastic, age-appropriate progr...

Chocolateworks/Basketworks
611 Jericho Turnpike
Syosset, NY
516-367-9200
Looking for a delicious gift, a super fun birthday...

Soccer Friends USA, Inc.
108-14 72nd Ave.
Forest Hills, NY
347-756-2988; 347-756-2568 (para EspaƱol)
At every practice no matter the age we provide new...

Power Brain Training Center
43-01 Bell Blvd., 2nd Floor
Bayside, NY
718-224-1500
The Power Brain Training Center is an innovative B...

Little Gym (The)
777 White Plains Road
Scarsdale, NY
914-722-0072
You can see it in their eyes the first time they r...
See Our Advice & News Directory

local zones

Nassau

Nassau cont.

Suffolk

Suffolk cont.

Westchester

Westchester cont.

Fairfield

Rockland

Rockland cont.

Queens

Queens cont.

Brooklyn

Brooklyn cont.

Manhattan

Copyright 2015 NY Metro Parents Magazine Site Design: THE VOICE